One of Nine Wonders of Dundgobi aimag: Ongiin KhiidArt & Culture
Dundgobi /MONTSAME/. At a distance of 18 km to the southeast of Saikhan-Ovoo soum of Dundgobi aimag, there lies a monastery named Ongiin Khiid on a site with peculiar formations. The Ongi River, the Khoshuu Khurliin Khiid, the remains of Porcelain city, and a cliff named Senjit Khad that looks like a handle—altogether, the Ongiin Khiid Complex is considered as one of the Nine Wonders of Dundgobi aimag.
The remains of the monastery which lies on the bank of the only river that flows through the Gobi region tells us about the history from 1760 to 1810. It was during this exact time that Khutuktu lama Ishdonilkhundev and his disciple Bari lama Damtsagdorj had the monastery built. The bricks used in building the monastery have a distinct embossment of religious imagery such as deities and the lotus flower. During the 70s and 80s, it was common for locals and travelers to come across such findings.
During the time, there used to be 28 temples where over 1,000 monks studied as disciples. Along the bank of Ongi River at about 15 km from the monastery, another monastery named ‘Khoshuu Khurliin Khiid’ also used to exist. As for Khutuktu Lama Khiid and Khamba Damtsagdorjiin Khiid that stood on both sides of the Ongiin Khiid, the structures were called the Three Monasteries of Ongi altogether.
Under the administration of the monastery, four religious schools used to operate in which training was held for religious philosophy, mantra and meditation, Buddhist medicine, and mathematics. The last Khamba lama of the temple Luvsandorj became a victim of political repression in 1937.
On the right side of the monastery, the Khutuktu Lama Khiid stood with its large, dark blue brick fence and decorative patterns with ancient script at the top. Inside the gate, there used to be nine temples with lacquered bricks at its peak as well as stupas and prayer wheels on both sides.
As for the left side, there used to be a 220-year-old monastery named Khamba Damtsagdorjiin Khiid that had 13 intricately designed temples built uphill.
In the middle of the remains, a temple named, ‘Zuun Gudengiin Dugan’, was restored. During summertime, monks used to chant religious sutras for all types of visitors. From Buddha to fierce deities, visitors are able to find various portraits and sculptures of religious figures inside the temple.
In 2001, a ger museum was established near the remains of Ongiin Khiid. The museum keeps artifacts such as the 21-volume ‘Sumbum’ sutra written by Bari lama Damtsagdorj, interesting items that he once used, copper dombo (traditional teapot), religious attire that were worn by the monks of the monastery as well as decorations of the monastery structure that survived through its demolition.
Currently, over 3,000 domestic and foreign tourists visit the monastery annually. Those visiting the area are able to participate in horseback and camelback tours, visit herder families and become acquainted with traditions and heritage of Mongolia as well as the daily lives of herders.
A festival for airag (fermented mare milk) is also organized in the area in September each year. During the festival, visitors are able to watch performances of traditional music and dance alongside participating and spectating various competitions involving traditional heritage.